Plastic pollution: One day, three solutions

Media Contacts


One day, three decisions — all of which may have far-reaching effects on plastic pollution in the United States.

In California, the “straw bill” (AB 1884) passed the state Assembly. The bill is now one Gov. Jerry Brown signature away from becoming law. Once signed, California would be the first state to require dine-in and full service restaurants to give customers single-use plastic straws only upon request.

Every day in the United States, people throw away about 175 million plastic straws, and many of those straws end up in or near the ocean.

“Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our rivers and oceans for hundreds of years—especially items we don’t really need,” said Dan Jacobson, state director of Environment California, which was a driving force in getting the bill passed.

On the Atlantic coast, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey also made a statement against single-use plastics. He vetoed a bill (A 3267) fast-tracked by retailers that would have placed a statewide 5-cent fee on single-use plastic bags, while simultaneously preventing local action. Instead, New Jersey’s cities and towns will have the freedom to pursue bans and heftier fees on plastic bags, while the state reconsiders what a statewide ban might look like in the future.

“Gov. Murphy made the right call to veto legislation that would have preempted cities and towns from banning plastic bags,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.

“Plastics bags are a scourge on our ecosystems and communities. We need to choose wildlife over waste.”

Single-use plastic bags are one of the most common single-use plastics found in the environment. Every day, Americans throw away an estimated 300 million, and less than five percent of those bags are recycled.

Not to be outdone by the east or west coast, corporate America responded from the heartland. Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., America’s largest grocery-only chain, announced its plan to phase out single-use plastic bags and transition to reusable bags by 2025 in all its stores, starting with Seattle-based subsidiary QFC in 2019.

“Kroger’s commitment is a big step forward in the Wildlife Over Waste movement.” said Steve Blackledge, senior conservation director for Environment America. “We’ve known for decades that plastic pollution is harming wildlife, and we’ve been reminded of this recently — whether seeing horrifying video of a turtle with a plastic straw lodged in its nostril, or the images of several dozen plastic bags being removed from the bellies of whales.”

This is the latest socially-responsible action from Kroger. In another recent zero waste- related initiative, Kroger set a goal to divert 90 percent of its waste from landfills by 2020.

Alex Truelove, U.S. PIRG’s Zero Waste campaign director, concluded, “Individual, targeted policies to reduce plastic pollution may seem inconsequential, but these statements across the country today prove that we’re all working together towards the same objective. Together, we can make a real difference.”